Drift Notes #2: Rewind Frenzy

Transformers on Video | Robotic Drift

The late 1980s. Luke’s house, the living room. His Mum pulls a video from a generic middle-class faux leather case. The film starts playing and Luke and I sit enthralled as a demon planet emerges from space to devour an entire world. 90 minutes of heavy metal violence later, Unicron’s decapitated head becomes the new moon of Cybertron.

My fragile infant brain is broken. We watch it again.

At this point I have seldom few of the toys, my hand-me-down Go-Bots no comparison to Chris’ collection of Dinobots. He and I watch Transformers: The Movie once more, this time at his house and from a case of such exquisite artwork that the image stays with me for life. The story, the animation, the soundtrack; nothing could compare to watching this film again and again – and nothing does.

Does having The Movie as an entry point make me a second generation Geewunner? G1.5? Perhaps. All I know is that for the years that follow, Season Three of the animated series is my jam. Saturday shopping trips to Northampton with my Mum sometimes yield a new video from a second-hand shop at the bottom of the Kettering Road. Dark Awakening and Grimlock’s New Brain become favourites. The Big Broadcast of 2006, Fight or Flee, The Return of Optimus Prime all follow.

Having the Transformers on video is not only great for re-watching episodes, but for the magic of the pause button as well. I take advantage; sitting in front of a glitching screen for half an hour at a time to draw Trypticon, a robot I had never seen outside of the Season Three intro but one I become obsessed with.

The trailers for other Tempo Videos are equally evocative. The G.I. Joe movie looks good (home rental proves that expectation wrong), whilst Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines is a tease of something I never see elsewhere. Yet despite the potential joys of these cartoons, there is still more of the Transformers to discover…

Another shopping trip, another video. Rodimus Prime adorns the cover yet it’s called Starscream’s Brigade – and with that, I’m back to the start.

Starscream becomes an instant favourite. Megatron’s Master Plan follows. At 8 years old I finally watch Arrival from Cybertron and fall in love with the alien alt-modes and battle at Sherman Dam.

A little older and I bookend G1 with The Rebirth. As much as I love the Headmasters, Targetmasters and Scorponok, the episodes don’t work for me. The Nebulons leave me cold, and even at that age Arcee and Daniel’s relationship makes me feel… odd. Whether it’s the cartoon, or me, or both, this is where I get off the ride.

For now.

Transformers Movie Poster 1986 | Robotic Drift

Years pass. By college my now empty Rebirth case stashes my weed and smoking paraphernalia. Most of the videos are long gone. My birthday, and Tomsk gifts me a new version of The Movie on VHS. It features a bonus Japanese cartoon episode and comes presented in a slick black and blue case.

That night, my darkened bedroom. A Dinobots poster by Pat Lee hangs on the wall. The film starts playing and I sit enthralled as a demon planet emerges from space to devour an entire world. Nothing could compare to watching this film again.

Thanks to home video, nothing does.

G1 Grimlock | Robotic Drift

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About Joe B 10 Articles
Filmmaker, writer and action figure enthusiast. As a child of the 80's Joe grew up on a steady diet of anime robots, newspaper cartoons and the glorious smell of a fresh Argos catalogue.